In 2019, CNN anchor Don Lemon was sued for sexual assault and battery in New York state court by Dustin Hice, and new developments suggest that the case will be tried in court next year. According to the complaint, Hice alleged that, at a bar, Lemon “put his hand down the front of his own shorts, and vigorously rubbed his genitalia, removed his hand and shoved his index and middle fingers into [Hice’s] mustache and under Plaintiff’s nose.” And, Hice’s allegations continue, Lemon did so forcefully enough that Hice moved his head back. While the litigation plays out in court, the case can give us some powerful lessons we can learn from it.
Assault isn’t battery… sometimes….
In normal conversation, it strikes people as odd that someone can get charged for “assault and battery” since assault and battery are usually thought of as synonyms. However, in the legal world, these are two different things. Assault is a threat someone makes that you might be touched (or even injured), while battery is the actual contact. So, for example, someone could commit “assault” if they threatened to shoot you with a gun, even if the gun wasn’t loaded and they never touched the trigger. On the other hand, a doctor could commit battery if they removed your appendix when they were supposed to give you a pacemaker. You were asleep—so you had no fear of injury, but you were injured regardless.
Indiana generally follows this rule, but other states may differ on the exact use of these terms.
Criminal charges and civil claims can arise out of the same incident
The first thing to remember is that you can be criminally prosecuted and sued in civil court for the same conduct. There doesn’t seem to be any evidence that Lemon was charged in the Hice case, and there’s no indication in the complaint that Hice reported the incident to the police.
While New York laws are a bit different, it would be hard to say that Hice’s allegations constitute battery in Indiana. At most, a criminal charge would be that fear-of-contact version of an assault charge. Given that, it’s unlikely Hice’s complaint would have ever led to criminal prosecution.
However, Hice’s civil claim can go forward, and he could even win in court because the standard of proof is lower in a civil trial than in a criminal case. In a criminal case, prosecutors would have to meet the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard to convict Lemon. At the same time, a civil jury need only decide there is a “preponderance of evidence” to find in favor of Hice.
If you are facing allegations of battery, assault, or a related crime, hire an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. As the Hice suit shows, the allegations against you can have repercussions that go far beyond even a conviction. Contact Razumich & Associates at (317) 449-8861 today for a free case evaluation.